(Manjushri cutting through illusion with
the sword of Prajna: wisdom or insight)
This is a transcription of an audio lecture from Gnostic Psychology, a course originally given live at the Gnostic Academy of Chicago:
So when we meditate, what we always seek is information. This type of information always carries with itself a psychological flavor of the new. So every time we sit to practice, we should really have the sensation, or the experience, that we are seeing things in a new way. If when we sit to practice and observe the contents of our mind, we perceive everything in a dull way, then we are not awakening the consciousness, the Buddhata, or the Essence. This clear observation of oneself is what Samael Aun Weor referred to as Mo Chao. Mo signifies "serenity," Chao indicates "reflection."
We find Mo Chao expressed in the writings of Samael Aun Weor multiple times when he refers to it as concentration and imagination. Concentration in itself is a serene state. It is a state of awareness or equanimity in which the mind is in silence. This can only be achieved by learning to pay attention, to direct attention. We do this through a moment to moment effort—to be aware of ourselves in whatever circumstance. We have to examine whatever impressions of life enter our mind and psyche in order to stimulate reactions within ourselves.
We can say, in synthesis, that the master work of esotericism, of meditation and these types of esoteric studies, is learning how to control and understand the mind and its relationships with impressions. It is a moment to moment effort. It is a moment to moment work. When we truly understand the nature of the mind itself and its hypnotism, the many ways in which thoughts, desires, and impulses really control us, we begin to take life as type of work. Concentration is really the key to understanding the vast breadth and depth of the science of meditation.
So while we study kabbalah, alchemy, tantra, astrology, tarot, the tree of life, the tree of knowledge, chakras, and many others subjects, when we don't know how to meditate, all of this esoteric knowledge is really quite useless. If we don't know how to pay attention from moment to moment, they are useless. If we have a psychology that's complacent with sloth, inaction, and lack of attention, if our consciousness is asleep by indiscriminately taking in impressions, when the mind constantly reacts without our comprehension, knowing kabbalah and alchemy will not help us. In fact, what we will have is a lot of indigestion. To really benefit from the science of the tree of life, in general, we need meditation.
It is learning how to discipline the mind itself that will allow us to make it an instrument in which our Inner Divinity can act through us. It's by learning how to concentrate, to achieve a serene mind, like a lake which can reflect the Being itself, that opens to door to self-knowledge. This spark of intuition and comprehension doesn't have to be just when we sit to meditate, when we close our eyes to the world and enter into our own internal worlds. In every moment we can and must learn to let the Being act within our three brains, here and now.
So when we talk about concentration and learning to pay attention, we're talking about the psyche, the soul itself. This is very distinct and different from what we term personality and what we term ego. If we're honest with ourselves and observe our actions and habits and thoughts, really we can see that the mind is in control of us, and not the other way around. The personality, which takes in the impressions of life, misinterprets everything—it receives impressions and sends them to the wrong centers. Therefore, the personality does not comprehend the nature of those impressions. When we talk about impressions we're talking about the very experience of life itself. As I was saying, the work is learning how to transform impressions.
This is the basis of Gnosis. Gnosis is about transformation. We refer to this work as a revolution. It is really a spiritual war, but not against anyone outside of us. As much as we like to point and blame other people for our problems, this is a war against ourselves. This is what the Prophet Muhammad called jihad—or better said jihad al-akbar, meaning, the Greater Striving or Holy War. When he was asked by his disciples, as documented in the Hadith or Muslim oral tradition, the Companions of the Prophet asked him what is greater: war against the infidels outside of us, or against ourselves. Prophet Muhammad said that war against yourself is by far most important. The Greater Holy War or Striving really takes precedence and priority.
In relation to concentration, the transformation of impressions is about learning how to transform what we perceive. The senses and the mind are like a great battlefield because we are constantly receiving the many impressions of life, whether tactile, sensory, auditory, visual, olfactory, etc., yet we do not comprehend the nature of what it is we perceive. It is enough to try to sit in meditation for an hour and remember everything you did in the day. If you do not remember certain events, if there are tremendous gaps in your memory, it's because you were asleep as a psyche, as a consciousness or soul.
This is especially true if we live in the cities where we are constantly bombarded by information. This is especially difficult. We rarely comprehend the intrinsic nature of what we perceive, since what we know how to do is react towards life, without comprehending and responding with cognizance, peace, and love. We don't really see the depth of the phenomenon that reach us. In synthesis, it's a misinterpretation of impressions that creates problems for ourselves, such as in our interrelationships with people.
Generally, what we disagree with in another person is our impressions of that person, not their soul. We can't really say that in this state of mind that we have, we perceive the inherent nature of a person. In the level in which we currently exist on the tree of life (Malkuth, the physical plane), what we exclusively perceive are images and phenomena, impressions or semblances of things. This is well documented in Plato's Allegory of the Cave in The Republic. Now, it's completely different thing to see the noumena of a person (noumena relates with Nous, Spirit, the very essence of a human being, the divinity within a person). Generally, what we see is body, hair, personality, habits, customs, attitudes, etc., and we characterize that as a person that we know.
However, we make a very clear distinction: it's a very different thing to know a person and to observe a person. We think we know people, but we don't, because we have never made the attempt to observe another human being with clairvoyance.
To say that I know a person is to say something along these lines: "Oh, I can see every atom that so-and-so has in his body." Such a Noetic type of perception is related with very elevated aspects of consciousness, related with the tree of life—superior states of consciousness where you can perceive the atoms and molecules of a person. It's conventionalism, but funny when we say "I know a person," because the truth is we really don't comprehend others in the objective sense, let alone our own selves! It's another thing to observe the fact that our friend or neighbor has a lot of anger, that such an ego is strong in him or her, to really see this person for who or what they are, and not by our mistranslation of their impressions. This is really where we get into a lot of conflict—every person sees life in a completely different way from everybody else. In the true sense of the word, every person is a world in himself, with his own concepts, beliefs, theories, prejudices, enemies, hatreds, defects, and what not. The mind is always projecting these self-delusions, this self-hypnosis onto the screen of our experience.
In general, we have not developed concentration in order to have a mind that receives the impressions of life without becoming disturbed, projecting reactions outwards. This is where a lot of conflicts arise. Our interrelations with other people falls in the sphere of what Prophet Muhammad called jihad al-asgar, the lesser holy war. This refers to how you try to help others by teaching the truth, by being a good example, by transforming your mind in order to be of benefit to humanity. We do not wage war through violence, but with compassion. We do not conquer injustice with evil, but by performing good. However, these ideas are meaningless if we don't understand ourselves in practice.
It's enough to sit in meditation and to really observe the contents of our mind to see that we really don't have any control. This is a truly necessary step to realize in ourselves, that we don't have control. This lack of organization, coherence, and order in our psyche is what Gurdjieff referred to as the Tower of Babel, relating with three lower types of individuals in psychological hierarchy, persons who gravitate more or less towards one of the three brains. In gnosis when referring to a brain, we are not referring to physical matter alone, but a psychological aspect of ourselves, a machine that processes psychological, spiritual, and bodily energies. A brain transforms energies, interprets information, and allows us to function in life. So when speaking about the three brains of Gnostic esoteric psychology, we have people who are very instinctive, relating with the motor-instinctive-sexual brain. Then we have an emotional type of individual who is always reacting, who is always sentimental, responding with emotions and gravitating to the heart. Then we have the intellectual type individual who interprets the impressions of life in a very intellectual way and always rationalizes.
We say that the consciousness is not prohibited or limited to any of these three aspects of ourselves. We can consider the three brains as three floors of a factory. The intellect is where we have thesis and antithesis, the heart is where we have like and dislike, and the motor brain is related with action: to do or not to do. This is really the basic machinery of our psyche and physiology. We find that by learning concentration through meditative practice, we see that our impulses, whether predominately intellectual, emotional or instinctual, are constantly arising in ourselves moment by moment. We don't have much control over that. This is really the source of our problems, for as Socrates taught us, "Ignorance is the greatest sin."
Every problem that we face in life is a result of our own minds. It is not the result of what other people say, do, think, feel, or act. Really, the reason we suffer is because of ourselves. We can't blame anyone for the diverse unpleasant circumstances of life, but generally our tendency is to absolve our own culpability and mark others as responsible for our sufferings. The more we learn to meditate to develop serenity of mind, the more we begin to perceive all of this. If we're really honest with ourselves, we will see that this is not pleasant. To see that we are responsible for all the problems that we face takes tremendous courage. We really can't judge other people. This is why Jesus said, "Judge not that you be not judged," because when you take in the impressions of a person and you interpret and make judgments about those impressions, you create suffering for yourself and your neighbor. We are always filled with justifications, "Well I know this person," and therefore we criticize and cause problems. Our critics and enemies are going to do the same to us as we do to them. It's the Law of the Talion, reciprocal violence. This doesn't mean physical violence—it could be of an emotional nature. It could be a battle and argument of ideas, polemics, philosophies, etc., in the mind. We are always misusing our three brains, here and now.
Generally, when there's a conflict of this type between people it's because they’re not aware of their own psychology. Like Prophet Muhammad said, people want to fight other people without wanting to take responsibility for their own crimes. Few people ever fight against themselves and their own defects. This is what a Master or a Buddha is: someone who has conquered their very inferior nature—a warrior like Arjuna in the Mahabharata who fought against the multitude of his family members, a conglomerate representing his own egos, defects, vices and errors. As the Prophet Muhammad said, "Happy is he who finds fault with himself rather than faults with others." Really we shouldn't be looking at the mote in the other person's eye. We have to develop awareness of ourselves. This awareness is the beginning and the ending. It is our goal and our purpose. Everything else comes second.
The practice of meditation is what facilitates this understanding. It is learning how to pay attention, and as I said, this doesn't just come about when we sit to practice. It is a moment to moment effort to be vigilant. Many traditions have used different terms like vigilance, mindfulness, awareness, self-observation and self-remembering, or dhikr (remembrance), muhasabah (self-accounting) and muhadarah (awareness) within Sufism. Many traditions refer to this. The important thing is that we do it. And this always comes about through struggle. I'm not referring to the exertion of the mind, when the mind struggles with itself and when we seek to repress our defects, because that does not produce harmony. It is the Buddha-nature, the divine principle that we have within, that has to discipline the mind. So the efforts that were talking about are conscious efforts, not forced exertion of the intellect upon the different centers of our human machine.
In relations with the field of impressions and understanding the very experience of life itself, we refer to the observation of mind itself. Generally if we've been in these studies for a while, we will be very familiar with these terms: repression, justification and comprehension. So in the field of observation and the field of concentration, when we face the impressions of life and try to understand them in a very integral way, we will come across a common problem (which is really an inevitable problem). It relates with repression and justification, and both of these constitute an identification with phenomenon.
It's one thing when we receive a pleasant impression and we like to justify our craving for something. It might be of a lustful nature. We see someone of the opposite sex and that lustful defect emerges within our perception and tries to justify taking in that impression of the opposite sex in order to feed itself, so that it grows stronger. While this is a big difficulty for the disciple of genuine religion, we have another problem—the complete opposite, called repression. This is where we begin to see the many defects of our psychology that arise within us from moment to moment and we, as the mind, don't like to see that. Therefore we push it away from our mind and understanding without comprehending the defect in question. This is called repression. Neither of these constitute what is called real discrimination, comprehension, real awareness.
What we seek is third force, a third factor. In other terms we can refer to the three forces as affirmation, negation, and reconciliation. Gurdjieff, who was the founder of the Fourth Way school, taught that humanity is third force blind. Generally in relation to the three brains of our anatomy, our psychology, we are always acting "either/or," and generally, we don't learn to see from a comprehensive, synthetic perspective. For instance, you see this in a lot of political debate, in which things are very two sided: "either you are with our part or you are against us." There generally isn't a middle ground—there isn’t comprehension of another path between the two. There is no synthesis in which there would exist a type of unanimity between two contrasting parties.
In philosophy, one movement emerges from another one in order to negate the former, and then another branch of thought comes to negate what was negated in the previous one. This, really, is important in relation to our psychology, because we are doing this on a moment to moment basis with the very contents of our mind. We might have a thought and we might justify it in a given instant. We're affirming something very adamantly about a certain issue, concern, or problem. We feel that "this is an essential part of myself," like "my pride." If someone congratulates me, we say to ourselves, "I like to justify that because it makes me feel good." And then there may be another moment, maybe within five minutes, when someone says something really critical or negative. Shame emerges and we say, "Oh, I'm such a terrible person." Therefore, we constantly swing between justification and repression.
We are constantly filled with these types of contradictions, and yet the illusion, the hypnotism, of the mind is so terrible that we really feel we are individuals, that we possess an individual will. We believe we are uniform and we are not. When we talk about self-hood or ego, which in Latin means "I," we're talking about a multiplicity. We're talking about the multifarious nature of the mind that is always contradicting itself. There really is no consistency. In one moment, anger emerges. Someone says something to hurt us and then another element comes up, "Oh, I forgive that person," and then another element cries, "Oh, I'm very happy!" or "Oh I want to go ride my bike." We are the riddle of the sphinx, composed of multiple elements, yet without understanding of who we are. We are merely a conglomerate of conflicting animal impulses and desires.
In mental dynamics and the comprehension of the mind itself, these first two principles are known as affirmation and negation. In relation with the field of practical life, we either find agreeable or disagreeable impressions. We tend to either affirm or we reject impressions. Our mind will react in either two ways: favorable or unfavorable. Very rarely do we see that sometimes both answers to a problem in life are correct at the same time. This relates with comprehension, with synthesis, with intuitive understanding of the impressions we receive. The very work of gnosis, self-knowledge, is learning how to comprehend these factors in every moment. It is really not enough to do it once in a while, because that will not produce lasting results. It takes a lot of effort, willpower, and discipline. This self-discipline, the understanding of these factors, occurs by walking the path of the Middle Way, the path of the Buddha. This topic is so important that Master Nagarjuna wrote a book within Tibetan Buddhism called Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way.
Neither by affirming nor rejecting the impressions we receive will we know ourselves. Concentration and meditation, serene reflection, is the path of the middle—we learn to receive good or bad impressions. We accept them without bias. We see life for what it is. We don't psychologically seek a way to affirm or negate things at all when we develop in the middle way, because those prior types of attitudes reveal that we are asleep as a consciousness. We rarely see or understand that life is constantly changing. It is a constant flux. Impressions arrive, they sustain themselves, then pass away, and yet the mind, the stubborn donkey that it is, always attaches itself to such impressions as if saying, "In this moment, this is real and my sense of self is real. This 'I,' this 'me' is real." However, we really do not comprehend that it is false!
If we do a simple analysis, we can see that nothing is permanent but the Being. Someone tells you a joke and you find it funny—if that were eternally existing, you would always be laughing. There would never be change whatsoever: things would always be permanent. We know from the Vajrayana teachings of Buddhism, particularly from Tibet, that the impressions of life are empty of intrinsic existence. That phenomena are empty of inherent or independent existence means they are dependent upon other factors beyond themselves, and therefore are not eternal. Therefore, we should not grasp at what is ephemeral, like cloud, smoke, and vapors.
This is what we call Dependent Origination. It means there is no independently existing thing in this whole universe. There is no eternally existing thing that is not reliant on other factors. This goes from the most grand cosmological scale of Kabbalah, the tree of life, to this very existence. It's what we call karma—cause and effect. And the very nature of existence and the very nature of the impressions of what we perceive is dependent on this. Suffering exists because we don't understand karma. We don't understand the nature of impression themselves: what appears, sustains itself, and passes away. So if no phenomena in life is stable or reliable, why do we hold on to them with our mentality? Why do we always crave certain things and run away from other, when, truly, all phenomena are of equal value? Why do we crave something so badly when it will not bring us eternal happiness? Why do we affirm that our life is real and lasting, taking in a sense of enjoyment and identity in that experience when it will only disappear, bringing us pain? Even in repression, the negation of things, we have a sense of self that is dependent on external factors that are completely empty of themselves.
Nothing is going to last except the Being, so why do we always have this attitude that things should always be in one way and permanent when we do not remember the Being? And when we are contradicted by friends, family, society, and our own mind, our whole world falls apart. We like the path of least resistance, whether in social, academic, employment, or personal endeavors, etc. We have the prevailing attitude that we just want things to go well. And when they don't go well, we get very upset. This type of disillusionment is very particular to each us. We have our own idiosyncrasy in relation to the three brains. Some of us will be more intellectual, some more emotional, and some more active—we always want to do things according to our predisposition to one of our three brains, but this is generally in a very dysfunctional way.
It comes into my mind Alice in Wonderland, which explains this type of psychological teaching. You have the Mad Hatter, the intellect that is always taking in impressions and coming up with gibberish. The Queen of Hearts is always angry with people, crying, "Off with her head!" This is our emotional state or center if we observe ourselves. And there's the instinctive type of character, the White Rabbit, who's always late and always worrying about activities and time. This is an instinctive type of person. These three characters represent the three inferior types of humanoids: the Tower of Babel.
So generally, we will have one predisposition over another. The fact is that in our relations to the impressions of life, our dysfunction generally gravitates to one of these three brains. We use all three brains, of course, but some of us have strong habits that are intellectual, like using the computer, or more emotional, listening to sentimental music. Some of us are more instinctive, always playing sports, practicing martial arts, or training in boxing.
The very basis of our psychological dysfunction is because we don't understand the nature of impressions. We don't understand karma. I'm explaining this because these principles are essential to meditation. It's essential to really understand what concentration is, because if we think concentration is identification with life, with certain elements within our three brains, or with the repression of certain elements, there will be no genuine insight. Going with the flow of life is not the nature of insight, the latter which is sharp, clear, and pristine, a shock or bolt of lightning that illuminates, if but for a moment, the dark cloud of our mind. The state of concentration is what leads us to the advent of comprehension. It, in itself, is the path of the middle—neither justifying nor pushing away impression from our psychological sight, but just seeing phenomena as they are. Whether the impressions are intellectual, emotional, or instinctive in relation to our psychology, we simply observe and comprehend where all our different wills come from. It is in this way that we can integrate our consciousness and develop the will of a Master, a God, a Buddha.
This is the basis of psychology or mental dynamics, Jnana Yoga. Jnana means "knowledge," relating with how we understand and control the mind. When we talk about impressions and the nature of psychology, I was mentioning some principles given in the Vajrayana school, which is the doctrine of emptiness in relation to karma and impressions—how life is always changing, always fluctuating. If we are astute in our efforts to self-observe, we cannot pinpoint something that is eternal within our psyche except the Being. So we talk about not understanding the nature of emptiness, in relation with affirmation and negation, as the foundation of Gnostic psychology. There are two misconceptions that arise with not understanding the nature of emptiness. This teaching was given by Nagarjuna in Four Hundred Verses of the Middle Way. He discussed two fundamentally mistaken views: eternalism and nihilism. Eternalism is the belief that there is an independently existing self that is never changing. This was first adopted by some of the Hindu schools of philosophy in relation to Atman the Inner Self. The Buddhists came to clarify those teachings when Hinduism degenerated. According to the Hindus, Atman was mistaken for the ego, the personality, our negative self-hood. The Buddhist masters who came after knew that Atman referred to one's internal divinity, but in order to clarify the misconceptions about Atman, Buddha taught the doctrine of Anatman, "No self." When Buddhists schools say that there is no self, they're talking about the ego, the "I," our defects—the three traitors of Christianity: Judas, Pilate, and Caiaphas. Pilate relates with the intellect, who always washes his hands clean, justifying and excusing himself for committing crimes. Caiaphas relates with the heart, because he hates Christ, and Judas represents instincts or desires because he sells the lord for thirty pieces of silver, representing fornication and lunar values.
In relation to affirmation and negation, misconceptions regarding their nature arise by not understanding the nature of impressions, by not understanding the very laws and dynamics of practical experiences and their relationship to the mind. Eternalism says there is an absolutely, dependently existing self. Nihilism says nothing matters, since there is no true existence. Both of these views are false. Emptiness is neither of these mistaken views. Really, such misunderstandings emerge from the inability to comprehend karma in action.
Karma comes from the Sanskrit, karman. It means "to act." What is cause and effect? To act. In life, we constantly find many types of actions involving the three brains. Karma teaches that every cause has an effect. Every effect has a cause. Nothing is separate. Nothing is independent, existing outside of ourselves. Everything is interdependent and related. Our current psychological state, the sleep of our consciousness, hypnotizes us into thinking that, "I exist in my own sphere and everything else is existing outside," as if there is no direct relationship between our mind and phenomena. For instance, you see a married person leering lustfully towards the opposite sex walking by, and says, "Well, I'm not really committing adultery, because I am just looking." They think that there is no relationship between mind and phenomena. However, Master Jesus said,
"Verily you have heard of old, you shall not commit adultery. But I tell you whosoever has looked at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart." ―Matthew 5:28
We also find the following textually stated by the Buddha in his Dhammapada:
Preceded by mind are phenomena, led by mind, formed by mind. If with mind polluted one speaks or acts, then pain follows, as a wheel follows the draft ox’s foot. Preceded by mind are phenomena, led by mind, formed by mind. If with mind pure one speaks or acts, then ease follows, as an ever-present shadow.
Karma, cause and effect, occurs in every level of existence, even when there is no physical action. Even if we physically do not commit adultery, we commit adultery with our mind by indulging in lust. We have all of these impulses that arise within us without our control and which keep us hypnotized, identifying with the states of existence. Karma applies not just instinctively to the physicality of the person, but to emotions and to intellect. It applies to every aspect of ourselves, in every level of the universe. Perhaps until you self realize and go into the Absolute, you will always be a slave of Karma. Until then, we are subject of the laws of karma, cause and effect, in this universe. The path of self-knowledge is about understanding the law within ourselves. When we do not know how karma functions, we fall into mistaken views of eternalism or nihilism, either that our ego is objective or that nothing matters, so we can do whatever we want without consequences. This is very dangerous.
I like to enjoy certain things in life. For me, I enjoy a hot cup of coffee. I can see how certain egos of gluttony like to enjoy those things, believing that such impressions are permanent. However, simple analysis shows that this isn't the case. The impressions of the coffee arise, sustain, and pass away. The problem is not the coffee, but my consciousness for not making a correct transformation of that impression, for not seeing the drink for what it is. The mistake is letting the impression enter the psyche and the mind becoming attached to the sensation of enjoying the coffee. This attachment, this crystallization of desire in the mind, is what we call ego. It is by not understanding karma that we create egos. The impression of the coffee is going to enter my psyche, sustain itself, and pass away, but if I am unaware of this fact, something hardens in my mind, like a mold, crystallizing and trapping the consciousness. This is identification, a wrong transformation of impressions, which crystallizes desire by trapping our consciousness. It is the misdirection of consciousness towards sensation—it is misguided attention, fortification of one's psychological attachment to impermanent sensations, for as Samael Aun Weor wrote, "Wherever we direct attention, we expend creative energy." The ego itself is really a prison, a cage, for the divine nature within, that we ourselves created by misdirecting our will and perception.
The root of all of this is ignorance. This is an essential teaching that the Buddha gave in relation to these three factors. The mind is always caught between craving and aversion. We produce our suffering through a lack of cognizance of the third factor—which is synthesis, comprehension, intuition, understanding, the Innermost Being. It is by not understanding the nature of what we perceive that produces suffering, because if we don't understand the very nature of mental dynamics, we continue with wrong perspectives, resulting in the creation of different psychic aggregates or egos.
Aggregate is word for compound, heap, or pile, and we can say that the human being is a conglomerate of multiple aggregates or egos. Really all of that is a result of ignorance, a lack of cognizance or relationship with God. The Buddha taught that there are three doorways into hell, into suffering, and they are: craving, aversion, and ignorance. Anger relates with aversion, because when we feel anger it is frustrated desire, wanting situations or people to be different than what they are. When someone is not giving us what we want, we become angry at that person. Craving, lust, or desire is another door into hell. Feeling compulsively attracted to something, always impelled to seek our those sensations that will satisfy us, is a tremendous form of suffering, since such impressions, like the orgasm, are fleeting and momentary. Meanwhile they have disastrous consequences for the mind, since the mind will only crave a greater orgasm, or more powerful experience, which it will never have. Therefore, lust is the original sin, because by wasting the energies of God, we fall into suffering, into craving, into the insatiable appetite of satyrs. Momentary pleasures emerge and pass away. The mind's habit is to be attached to those impressions, as if such impressions are permanent.
While craving and aversion are bad, ignorance is truly the greatest sin. What is sin? I'm not sure if your familiar with that term. It comes from archery. It means when you draw your bow and you fire at the target, you go off to the side, to the left. That term was taken into Judea-Christianity to denote these types of principles. When your concentrated in archery and you draw your bow, you can't fire to the right or the left, neither indulging in craving or aversion, but focusing on the center. This is an analogy for the middle path of comprehension within meditation.
This is why The Odyssey by Homer, who was an initiate, depicts this great Greek hero defeating his enemies, his egos, with a bow and arrow. The story narrates how he battled the Trojans and afterward sought his way home, sailing to many islands, losing his companions, and finally arriving to his own kingdom, Ithaca. He finds out that his wife has maintained her marriage vows to him by not marrying and seeking another husband. However, despite her fidelity to him, there are many suitors who think that he's dead and try to convince her to marry them. These suitors are degenerated, trying to take his wife from him. They represent the egos that we have who are trying to steal our moral purity, our own divinity that we have still free, represented by Penelope, Odysseus' wife; so they're always tempting her. Odysseus is disguised a hermit and goes into his kingdom, drawing them all into a throne room. Meanwhile he is guided by his Divine Mother, Athena, who provides him the bow and arrow so as to mercilessly slay his enemies who are attempting to steal his kingdom, his spirituality. It is a very chilling scene if you read it. The egos are so terrified! They're green with fear and they realize that they're going to die. Truly it is a bloody battle.
Odysseus' power comes from the bow and arrow, knowing how to balance the external world with the internal. This is really the relationship with self-observation. We have to look at what's outside of us in relation to what's inside and that’s what concentration and discrimination are. This is how you go to battle like Odysseus. This is how you fight the illusions of the mind, and this is really the anecdote to how to comprehend states of suffering, because the mind will generally ignore what's inside and always pay attention to what's outside. The spiritual warrior, the samurai with his bow and arrow, observes both the external and internal and understands the relationship between them. So you see these three factors here: affirmation, which is outside. Then you have the mind that is always negating things. That's really the force of negation, always reacting to the impressions of life. And then you have comprehension, which is the consciousness that reconciles the two.
So we can say that the impressions life are always affirming themselves by entering into our psychology, and we have the mind that is always reacting or negating, either intellectually, emotionally, or instinctively with greater predominance in one of the three brains. That's really the force of negation, when our mind reacts to impressions. In order to reconcile both impressions and our reactions, we need discrimination, seeing that the external is dependent upon the internal and the internal dependent on the external. This is known as states and events in Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology, and that to live uprightly, one must know how to combine the appropriate internal state with its corresponding external event. Due to this relationship, how the internal really relates with the external, we realize that many of the perspectives that we carry within our self are unfounded, illusory, and ignorant, without real gnosis or cognizance of the truth. Therefore, real awareness, fully-concentrated consciousness, is like a shock. It only takes a moment to take an impression of life and to immediately, intuitively comprehend the relationship of that impression to our mind. This occurs only with awakening the consciousness, so as to cancel out negative reactions.
For example, someone insults you, or says something very hurtful, and then your pride is starting to react. Fire is bubbling out of you. If you pay attention in that moment and genuinely perceive that this person is suffering too, instantaneous comprehension helps to renounce such a negative emotion and guides you in the work meditation and elimination. It also develops compassion. In that instant, we understand that this person is subjected to karma, cause and effect, and that there are many factors that are provoking a state of suffering for that person. Achieving this understanding, peace, and harmony between ourselves and our neighbors is not easy, precisely due to the fact that we have rarely disciplined our mind in a conscious way. This is why Friedrich Nietzsche wrote in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, "The narrowest cleft is the hardest to bridge." This is in relation to our interactions with our fellow man. To cross the abyss between ourselves and others, we need to establish the bridge of compassion, by comprehending our neighbor and transforming negative impressions, so that love can blossom from our hearts.
This is not an intellectual exercise—it is cognizant, practical mysticism, genuine occult science, and true religion. In the beginning we study this teaching intellectually. The work is to perform religion in every second—cultivating a state of comprehension in every instant.
The impression arrives and the mind wants to react. Comprehension helps you look at the two and ask: what is the nature of that impression? What is the nature of my interpretation of those impressions? Cognizance produces a type of canceling. When someone insults us and we comprehend that the insult bears no value, that the individual providing the insult is imprisoned in suffering and needs compassion, and that we ourselves are like dust on the side of the road when compared to the beauty of divinity and the cosmos, we immediately cancel the impression and do not invest any value into those words, which are as intransient as vapor. Samael Aun Weor explained that when we transform the impressions of aggression directed towards us by developing comprehension of such impressions, it is like trying to draw funds with a check from an empty bank account. The check will bounce, and the aggressor will have nothing to retaliate with further. We therefore can irradiate genuine love and peace, which will help our enemies to change and become better persons.
Comprehension is like a lightening bolt; it’s a superior type of information. This is what is going to fuel meditation. Meditation is about discovering new information. We do that through our moment to moment effort to observe ourselves. As I was mentioning in another lecture, Swami Sivanada wrote, “The reason why students fail in meditation is that they lack ethics.” They don't know how to discipline their mind from moment to moment. It’s really a lack of discipline that produces inconsistency and failure within meditative practice. That is the explanation for why, although many practice meditation and adopt the austerities of monastic life, they languish within a dull state of existence, of not BEING, when really self-observation, meditation, and serene reflection should be like a crystal, very sharp and pure.
Meditation is not spacing out or falling asleep. Eventually as you progress, you let yourself fall asleep so you can go out of your body in order to travel throughout the tree of life. But generally when we fall asleep in meditation, maybe a couple of hours pass and we don't realize what happened. That's why in the beginning we emphasize not falling asleep. Maintain your drowsiness, maintain your clarity of mind while keeping your body in very relaxed state, and with consistency you will learn to astral project during your meditations. As we were stating, Mo Chao, serene reflection, is precisely this clarity of reflection, accompanied serenity.
Samael Aun Weor made a point in The Revolution of the Dialectic to explain these terms. How most people define "serenity" and "reflection" are incorrect. Serenity is not a dull state of mind, very lax or lazy, where impressions just emerge in the mind and there is no understanding. This is generally the state that we experience when we go to bed. If we pay attention even for a little bit before we go to sleep, the mind becomes very dull and a lot of images and impressions chaotically emerge. This in itself is not a true state of serenity, because serenity should be very firm, very strong. It’s also very supple, but it isn't just a dull state where we just accept things as they are. Dullness is a lack of conscious observation. Genuine spiritual reflection or insight, in itself, is known as the faculty of imagination.
In many different writings Samael Aun Weor made a point to explain Mo Chao. I've been referring to it in the Chinese way. But you find this also in Kabbalah, the teachings of the Hebrews, and many other forms of mysticism. Mo Chao, serene reflection, serenity of mind, is a result of concentration. Reflection is visualization or imagination. If you are familiar with the Eternal Tarot of Alchemy and Kabbalah, you find this in the very first two cards of the twenty-two arcana or sacred laws. The first is the Magician. He's very active. In one of his hands he's holding a staff and he's pointing in one direction. But he's very active in the card, strong, affirming himself. This represents the Father, or as we say in the Hebraic Kabbalah, Kether, the First Logos amongst the Gnostics. He's really the warrior magician who gave power to Moses. Moses received power from his Inner Divinity, from Kether, for the mantra related with Kether is אהיה אשר אהיה Eheieh Asher Eheieh, which translates as “I Am that I Am” and when Moses was before the burning bush, he asked “Who shall I say sent me?” And Christ said “אהיה אשר אהיה Eheieh Asher Eheieh: I Am the One Who I Am.”
That's the Magician. He needs to fight for His Self-realization. This is the source of willpower, concentration. Then we have the second card of the tarot, the Priestess, who is sitting in a temple, with two columns: Jachin and Boaz, which we find in the temples of Freemasonry and Solomon. She is receptive, for She is the Divine Mother. She's really that force that gives us the faculty to perceive; it relates with clairvoyance. When we talk about imagination and clairvoyance, really, these are synonymous terms. Generally people think that clairvoyance is a faculty that only a few have, which is for people who are very elite, but really this term in itself was instituted by French initiates a couple of centuries ago in order for people to not disturb the study of their science, meaning: they intentionally sought to confuse people in order to protect their teaching, making people think that this is a gift for the few.
Clairvoyance and imagination are the same thing—clear perception and imagination is to receive images. But in gnosis we make the distinction that there are different types of clairvoyance. There's the objective perception of the Truth or the subjective perception of the mind, a falsity of ego. It’s a type of imagination that we perceive through wrong perception. This is exemplified when we have really disturbing dreams, or dreams consisting of nonsense, gibberish. That's a type of clairvoyance, but it’s subjective. The type of imagination we seek to cultivate in our practice, through concentrated reflection, Mo Chao, is lucid and objective. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to explain this science in this way because to understand what objective clairvoyance is, true states of comprehension, you have to really experiment with yourself. You have to become like a taste tester to really evaluate what comprehension, concentration and imagination really mean. We must become connoisseurs of spiritual experience, like you’re drinking different kinds of wine to evaluate their quality and purity. What in me is subjective? What is objective in me? That only comes about through practice, through effort. We need to really sit in meditation, remembering our Innermost Self, concentrated on God. Through persistence and consistency with our discipline, perhaps in your practice a new image arises—something very foreign, clear, lucid and powerful. Maybe you see people from far away, from a different part of the globe, or cities, activities, etc. It could be many things. Flashes of imagery, scenes, sounds, tastes, and smells are good signs that imagination starting to awaken—it’s sparkling as a result of our work with sexual transmutation.
A new way of life emerges when we dedicate ourselves to meditation, sexual transmutation, and charity, but of course our efforts are always fueled by the science of the Divine Mother: Alchemy for couples, but pranayama for individuals. When we perform exercises of pranayama, we are utilizing the energies of our bodies in relation with the sexual glands and raising it with our breath in the etheric level, in our subtle energetic physiology, and using that energy to fuel the brain. For example, one exercise is Ham-Sah. You perform a prolonged and relaxed inhalation, mentally pronouncing the mantra Ham, bringing that energy to the brain and subsequently to the heart. Then you exhale softly and quickly, Sah and that energy goes to the heart.
Since the divine Mother, מרים Miriam, relates with מ Mem, the waters, it relates with the sexual energy, like in the story Pinocchio. He becomes a real man through his Divine Mother, cited as the Blue Fairy in the story. By using that energy through yogic exercises, pranayama, and moreover, through alchemy, Pinocchio becomes a boy of flesh and blood, an Adam Kadmon, a fully enlightened spiritual being. So while we're talking more about the principles of this practice, it’s generally fueled by how you use your energies through the science of breath. That energy is going to fuel your imagination incredibly, because that energy relating with מ Mem, with the waters of the sexual organs, rises up to the מ Mem of the brain, because we know from occidental science that the physical brain is surrounded by a fluid—it’s really a type of water, the cerebral spinal fluid, known as the מ Mem of the brain within Kabbalah. The Kabbalists knew this very well. So when they refer to the Divine Mother they call her Miriam: מ Mem, ר Resh, י Iod and ם Final Mem. מ Mem is water. ר Rosh literally means head. י Iod can also mean head and ם Final Mem again is water.
So the Divine Mother relates with energies from our sexual waters in our brain and sexuality, and it is this power that's going to fuel our imagination, our visualization practice. There's many types of pranayama exercises: Egyptian Christic Pranayama as given in The Yellow Book, Ham-Sah as given in The Perfect Matrimony and other lectures. Swami Sivananda gave an extensive variety. There are many different types of pranayama. Basically we use this energy to fuel our imagination practice. However, it's not all to develop perception—it is not enough. Imagination by itself is not enough—it has to be balanced with concentration.
This brings us to the third Arcanum of the Tarot. After the Magician and the Priestess, you have the Empress. It’s also a feminine card, relating to the third Sephirah, the third sphere of the Kabbalistic tree of life, Binah, which is the Holy Spirit. Binah in Hebrew literally translates as “Understanding,” so as we see in the unfoldment of the arcana (arcana means laws, principles), we see from concentration, the Magician, the Father and imagination, the Priestess, emerges the third force: synthesis, comprehension, or reconciliation.
It’s by learning how to balance our concentration with our perception that we attain insight, meaning: we don't forget we’re meditating, focused on our practice while allowing ourselves to become drowsy enough to perceive new images from the dream world. It’s really the combination of the two that will allow us to perceive something new in our experience, to access the genuine state of meditation. This not only applies when we sit to meditate, but in every moment, every instant. When we transform impressions, we have to be concentrated. We have to pay attention, such as in this moment. You must be aware of the fact that you are sitting and receiving words and information, to not let your mind wander or daydream during the lecture. You need imagination, the ability to perceive those impressions from the instructor. It’s the balance of those two, being attentive and perceiving images, that comprehension starts to emerge. This is essentially important with interrelations with people. Sometimes we may be very concentrated, but we are not clearly perceiving or understanding the nature of impressions. In that sense we need to pay attention to the clarity, quality, and nature of our perception.
This a Kabbalistic and alchemical teaching given in the manner and tradition of the Hebrews, but we find this synthesis even in Chan Buddhism: Mo Chao, serene reflection. This is how understanding will emerge in our practice. Understanding the nature of impressions and karma is a direct result of our serenity of mind and how we perceive, because the word reflection reminds us of the reflection of a lake. When you truly reflect on something, what you want is to see the image of something, but in order to reflect an image in your mind, you need to have the waters calm. If the lake is chaotic and the impressions of life are entering the waters like stones, it’s going to create a lot of friction—the waves will expand and the image which should be reflecting God within gets muddled. Establishing and maintaining serene reflection is is a moment to moment effort. This is the work in relation to transformation, understanding the nature of mind itself, and the impressions that we receive.
If our meditation practice is muddled, if there isn't much clarity, we need to work on our imagination, our visualization. If we forget that we are meditating when we sit to meditate, that's when we need more concentration. You will find at different times you need more of one than the other, but generally it’s finding balance which will result in new experiences in meditation and comprehension. We have to understand this on a moment to moment basis, because without serene reflection, meditation itself becomes very dry—we won't have the fuel and the energy needed in order to perform meditation properly. Our meditation will become stagnant. All of that fluctuation of impressions, how they sustain and how they pass away on the screen of our mind, will remain confusing and disordered. Achieving clarity only comes about by awakening the consciousness here and now, in every instant of our lives. There are stories of people who have tried meditating for twenty of thirty years, but they don't understand that in order to meditate you have to meditate in every second.
Every state of awareness that you have, in whatever activity you are doing, is essential for developing true esoteric discipline. Some activities might be more conducive for that. For instance, I take martial arts. That's a very profound form of meditation if you know how to take advantage of it. On the one hand you may think it’s merely a physical calisthenics, exclusively dealing with the physicality of the person. The real purpose of martial arts, the real struggle, is with your own mind. You have an attacker and your mind wants to react—you have reconcile that. You have to work around that. I take Aikido, which is very geared towards this type of philosophy, Chan and Zen Buddhism. If you have the opportunity to take martial arts like that... it could be very helpful to your practice—understanding the nature of impressions through the motor-instinctive brain. It’s a great way to train the mind. Psychological discipline and spiritual training is the origin of all martial arts.
Bodhidharma founded Kung Fu and people just think it was only instituted so that the monks could defend themselves from attackers, but really it was so they can defend themselves against their own minds. This is what the work of transforming impressions is—comprehending life from moment to moment. Really, you have to be like a martial artist—calm, relaxed, and serene, in this moment—meanwhile you could have twelve guys chasing after you with axes. Despite great dangers, you must be composed and in control. It doesn't mean you’re not worried about the situation. Something would be wrong if you weren’t. But what’s important is to be observant, relaxed—then you deal with a given problem, whether it is being attacked or paying your bills in practical life. That's the essence of Zen—that’s the effortless effort. Serenity deals with much more elevated states of concentration, as it's illustrated by the graphic called the Nine Stages of Meditative Concentration, or Calm Abiding: the Stages of Serenity, which we should study and work with. We've definitely talked a little bit about this topic.
Questions and Answers
Audience: You mentioned that the magician, the priestess, and empress in succession reflect the three primary foundations of meditation (dynamics). My question regarding the rest of the tarot is: Do they continue to reflect the different aspects of the dynamics of meditation?
Instructor: In relation to the mind itself, you have the three principles of affirmation, negation, synthesis. This is what Samael wrote in this book in relation to the transformation of impressions. In understanding the mind itself, those are the most important factors. As to whether the rest of the tree of life correlates, it does, but not in a strict or rigid way. With affirmation, you have a thought that appears, you have negation when you want to react to that, then the synthesis is the actual moment of comprehending and understanding the relationship—if you are paying attention and remembering your Being. That's really the most important thing in relation to meditation practice... because the trinity is the force that creates.
Relating the tree of life to meditation and the holy trinity, you have three triangles in the tree of life. You have three trinities, the logoic triangle (Kether, Chokmah, Binah), the triangle of ethics (Chesed, Geburah, Tiphereth), and the triangle of priesthood (Netzach, Hod, Yesod)—and seven levels for the first seven sephiroth. But in relation to the three trinities, you have Kether, the Father, in the head, Chokmah, the Son, in the heart, and the Holy Spirit in sex. You can also say that you have Chesed in the mind, a superior type of reasoning, the spiritual Nous. This is what Plato talked about in The Republic, that the philosopher king should have Nous—the illumination of Chesed, the Inner Being within. So you can say that Chesed relates with the head, Geburah with the heart, and Tiphereth in relation to instincts and sexuality. The sixth commandment, “Thou shall not fornicate,” relates with Tiphereth. The sixth arcana of the tarot is related with the choice between chastity, inner purity, and fornication. So Tiphereth is in relation to sexuality according to the sixth card of the Tarot, Indecision. And then you also have the other trinity at the very bottom.
The first triangle is the logoic triangle, the second is the ethical triangle, and the third is the magical triangle. The magical triangle consists of Netzach, which is the mind, Hod which is the heart, and then you have Yesod which is the etheric body related with sexuality. My emphasis is much more on the first three principles because everything comes from Christ—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but that trinity is reflected in all of the Sephiroth. Generally we say that the mind is affirmation, because it is always affirming thoughts, a constant churning of concepts, memories, and ideas. The heart is negation, going back to Alice in Wonderland—always reacting with negative emotions, such as the Queen of Hearts, “Off with his head!” And you have synthesis related with sexuality, because as you see in the motor-instinctive-sexual brain, it’s really a synthesis of three principles. It encompasses movements, instincts and sexuality, so it’s a synthesis.
Now to go even deeper, this relates with the three mother letters of the Hebrew alphabet―א Aleph, the Magician relates with the head, ש Shin, fire, Christ, relates to the heart, and מ Mem, Maya, Miriam, the Holy Spirit relates to the waters. They all derive their source from the Trinity. So in relation with the dynamics of meditation, it’s always in threes, really, because everything comes from the divine source. The law of three was mentioned by Master Gurdjieff as the Holy Triamatzikamno. All originate with the Divine Source—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So, you have those correlations definitely.
Audience: I notice for myself, and I make, in as much as I remember, an effort to be awake and aware of myself. I will notice certain points in time that I’ll be doing a job that requires almost more of my attention just on that… almost more than my own intention just on that and I have to be aware of myself too, but it’s very difficult.
Instructor: That's good that you recognize this fact. It’s very difficult. It’s difficult to spark that comprehension in the first place. It’s difficult to maintain it―that's really what jihad is about. It’s difficult to even realize in the first place, and it’s even more difficult to maintain awareness throughout the entire day. As indicated by the term "mindfulness" in Buddhism, we make a distinction that it doesn't just relate to self-observation. Self-observation is the first step, to be watchful of this moment, and mindfulness is maintaining self-observation through the entire day. So first you observe and then you maintain that vigilance throughout the entire day. If you recognize that its hard, that's a good sign. It is hard. That's really the battle and struggle of the mind. The mind can't do it. So when your mind says, “I can't do it,” comprehension will show you, “This is the only thing right the mind has stated. However, for making this postulation, the mind is wrong. Mind, you are only a vehicle, a machine! You are not my true identity!" The mind really can’t resolve anything—only the consciousness can. Life is really the psychological gymnasium.
It’s a work in progress. Even if you self-realize you have work to do. Generally there can be two types of comprehension: hindsight and foresight. Hindsight hurts a lot because your mind stabs you in the back with shame for having made a mistake. Generally, you want to develop a type of comprehension that is instantaneous and helps you to act appropriately in the moment. You know it’s wrong in the instant a defect appears in your three brains and you say “Ah-ha! I'm not going to do that!” And there's real control there, real discipline. That's the type of insight that we need. You can only get that if you’re mind is serene and your consciousness is paying attention. You must let your mind reflect and perceive those images for what they are in a given moment. You’re only going to develop that by working very hard. Remember that if you’re practicing these types of teachings, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. That's in the case of every Buddha—every initiate has to face that.
There's one German initiate, by the name of Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote in his book Thus Spoke Zarathustra a speech that conveys a very inspiring, comforting, and revelatory message. In the text, we have Nietzsche's fictional Zarathustra preaching to his disciples within the solitude of a mountain cave, saying:
The higher its type, the more rarely a thing succeeds. You higher men (initiates) here, have you not all failed?
Be of good cheer, what does it matter? How much is still possible! Learn to laugh at yourselves as one must laugh!
Is it any wonder that you have failed and only half succeeded, being half-broken (meaning, being weak with ego)? Is not something thronging and pushing in you—man’s future (the promise and birth of the Intimate Christ within, the Superman)? Man’s greatest distance and depth and what in him is lofty to the stars, his tremendous strength (of the Inner Being)—are not all these frothing against each other in your pot (your mind)? Is it any wonder that many a pot breaks? Learn to laugh at yourselves as one must laugh! You higher men, how much is still possible!
And verily, how much has already succeeded (meaning: through psycho-analytical meditation and comprehension of mental dynamics)! How rich is the earth in little good perfect things, in what has turned out well!
Place little good perfect things around you, O higher men! Their golden ripeness heals the heart. What is perfect teaches hope. —The Higher Men, Book IV, Section 15.
Therefore, he was saying, “You higher men (initiates), don't you realize that you’re failures, but is there anything to be upset about that you make mistakes like that? There's still so much, and many rich and beautiful things to accomplish if you fail and realized that you failed. That's good that you recognized your mistakes—now work on them. That's when you realize you'll be making victories.”
When you make a mistake and you say, “Really I made a big mistake,” and you accept it and you work on it diligently, then the gods, Buddhas and masters look at you and say “He's progressing.” When you have the maturity to realize that “Yeah, I'm really at fault and I'm going to change it,” to have the perseverance to keep working, that's when they really honor you in the internal planes. Ordeals must be experienced again and again until we conquer them. You may read about this subject in The Perfect Matrimony. The disciple will be submitted to ordeals in the astral plane, right? And generally when they do that, they push you to the very edge so that you react in a bad way. If you control yourself through the science of mental dynamics, they will appear to you as children, golden Cherubim, the children of the immortal dawn, very innocent. They were once like us, but now they're innocent like little children and they honor you because even though you made mistakes and you fail ordeals, you continue onward through jihad al-akbar. They keep testing you, internally. They'll do that when you develop enough Mo Chao, serene reflection, physically, and then internally. They're happy if you succeed after having failed many times.
So it’s a work in progress, but don’t think you're some exception, because everyone has their difficulties. The key to unlocking it all is Mo Chao, Self-remembering and serene reflection, in every moment. Then you’ll learn to transform those ordeals into something positive for you. So even after you've broken your pot, you may remember all the good and wonderful things you have received from God as a result of mental dynamics. Then afterward, you may say with peace, like Nietzsche did in the quotation, “Learn to laugh at yourselves as one must laugh! What is perfect teaches hope.”
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